Renewed push to lower voting age as electoral reform looms

Dominic Giannini 12 May 2021 83

The Greens have renewed its push to lower the voting age in the ACT. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Greens have proposed lowering the voting age in the ACT, banning or creating dedicated spaces for roadside election signage and capping electoral donations at $10,000 in a submission to the 2020 ACT Election review.

Former Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur tried to make voting voluntary for 16 and 17-year-olds ahead of the 2020 ACT Election, which would have allowed around 8,500 younger people to vote last year.

The Canberra Liberals rejected any changes to the voting age in its submission, while ACT Labor said it supports Elections ACT considering lowering the age, but the party said voting should remain compulsory.

The Greens proposal to ban or limit roadside signage on public land was also rejected by the Liberals, who said it was an important way for their candidates to build their profile given “the limited engagement with local media by Canberrans”.

Although some reform in the area is likely given that Labor supports banning the unrestricted use of corflutes on public land and has suggested limited the number of corflutes each candidate can place in certain areas.

Election corflutes

The ACT Greens want to ban or limit corflutes in public places. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

All three major parties also endorsed changes to electoral donations following recommendations from the ACT Electoral Commission in its report into the 2020 election, tabled in the Legislative Assembly last month.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that the ACT Government change the current laws to limit public funding that a political party or candidate can receive.

It also recommended the Legislative Assembly review the previous legislation, which imposed a $10,000 cap on political donations with the aim of reinstating a similar provision.

Parties and independents who secure more than 4 per cent of the primary vote currently receive $8.60 per vote.

Labor and the Liberals spent more than $1 million each during the 2020 election and received $880,000 and $785,000 from Elections ACT, respectively. However, the Greens spent $125,000 and received $315,000 from Elections ACT while Fiona Carrick spent $13,500 and received $32,600.

Labour DLP also came close to doubling their $13,000 spend at the election from the money it received from Elections ACT.

READ MORE: Better mobile voting services are needed for homeless people: Elections ACT

Labor agreed to limit public funding to the amount spent on elections so political parties cannot profit from elections. However, it rejected the donations cap, saying the introduction of expenditure caps and a new public funding model that superseded the provision was fairer.

“The ACT has one of the most rigorous donation disclosure regimes in Australia that already makes public the name of any organisation or individual donating over $1,000,” it said in its submission.

“This scheme will be further enhanced by even shorter reporting timeframes that come into effect from 1 July 2021.”

The Liberals said they wanted stronger regulation on associated entities, such as unions, that spend money on elections as third party campaigners.

“The clearest example of such a conflict was that the President of UnionsACT was a Labor Party candidate, and UnionsACT reported spending $15,874 as a third party campaigner,” former Canberra Liberals Director Josh Manuatu wrote in his submission.

“From the material that we are aware of, this was largely for the distribution of material solely in favour of the Labor Party’s campaign.”

The Greens and the Liberals both wanted to reduce the 100-metre campaigning exclusion zones outside polling places to the Federal regulation of six metres.

Labor did not specifically note whether it wanted the zone reduced but said it wanted the Electoral Commission to better enforce the current measures, saying the Commission could not take direct action against breaches.

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83 Responses to Renewed push to lower voting age as electoral reform looms
John Moulis John Moulis 12:09 pm 13 May 21

Speaking personally, the thing I remember about when I was a teenager and voting were the pop songs. “It’s time” for Gough in 1972, “Turn on the lights” for Fraser in 1975. We picked up our political information from the media. When the media turned against Gough, so did we.

It is interesting to note that the Whitlam government lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The thinking being that young people all voted Labor and would keep Labor in office permanently. The 1975 record Liberal landslide showed up our way off beam that thinking was.

Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 11:06 am 13 May 21

The first time I voted I knew almost nothing about politics. I imagine most of my class mates were the same. I voted as my father told me to vote. There are some informed teenagers, but for many (maybe the majority?) they are likely to vote as their parents tell them to do. So extra votes for parents!

The teenager's brain is also not fully developed. This doesn't happen until about 25 years. LOL, maybe an argument for the voting age to be put up, not down. (Car driving could be included in that too.)

Leave it as it is now.

Susan Peachey Susan Peachey 8:26 am 13 May 21

Yes. But make it voluntary until 25.

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 10:32 pm 12 May 21

Not if it means introducing a two-tier system. Either make the compulsory voting age 16 and above or keep it at 18.

MERC600 MERC600 6:23 pm 12 May 21

How’s about we do away with compulsory voting …

Most countries I know of don’t have compulsory voting. Even ‘gasp’ New Zeeeland . You do need to be on the roll, but compulsory turn up ? Nope.
None of the G7 countries require it.

We are one of the small number of countries that require you to turn up and vote, and if you don’t “vee have ways to track you down and make you pay !”

Below is a govy list of who does and who don’t.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:39 pm 12 May 21

“I think voting should be proportionate to the amount of tax you contribute.”

So that means all people who don’t pay income tax would not be able to vote?

That would disqualify all retired people in pension mode and also the Governor General.

Suzanne Milne Suzanne Milne 9:48 am 12 May 21


Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 12:57 am 12 May 21

Absolutely. There’s people voting now who are completely misinformed about anything going on in this country & waste their vote to avoid a fine. When I was 16/17 politics were spoken about at high school often, but there were others who weren’t interested, that’s their choice. If people are informed & concerned about what’s happening around them, they should be given the opportunity to have a say in something affecting their future. We can drive & work before we turn 18. This is not denying anyone else’s rights, it’s about giving more of the population more rights.

Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:33 pm 11 May 21


And if you think they are mature enough to vote at 16 or 17, then they should be tried for any crimes as adults as well, not let off as a minor.

This includes everything else that is considered 'adult' age - change the laws for drinking, smoking, driving, entering the Defence Force etc - cannot have it both ways...

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:35 pm 11 May 21

    oops, meant to say, cannot have it one way! :)

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 10:47 am 12 May 21

    Nada Krstin so they shouldn't pay tax until they're 18 then?

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:28 pm 12 May 21

    Jo Hann what? oh come on, apply some common sense - if you earn wages, you need to pay tax, irrespective of age, doh!

    The point of my post was that if this ACT Gov thinks 16/17 year old are mature enough to vote - then they should be considered 'adult' across ALL other legislations too - which would mean changing the law to change the age for drinking, smoking & to be tried as adults in criminal countless others I would suspect..

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 5:51 am 13 May 21

    Nada Krstin if you pay tax, you should have an option to vote for the government that spends it.

    It's not about being "adult enough" - there is a case to be made for each subject. For example, it would be ridiculous to charge a 16 year old as an adult, as their frontal lobe (which controls impulses) is not fully formed. That does not mean that they're not just as qualified to vote as you are, though.

    Benjamin Challen Benjamin Challen 1:20 pm 14 May 21

    most 16-18 year olds wouldn’t earn enough to be above the tax free freehold anyway.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 1:23 pm 14 May 21

    Benjamin Challen but some do. In fact, there are many who are completing apprenticeships at that age. If you're eligible to pay tax, you should be eligible to vote.

    Benjamin Challen Benjamin Challen 1:25 pm 14 May 21

    Most apprentice wouldn’t even get close to the 35-38k tax free you get, after low income offsets etc.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 1:33 pm 14 May 21

    Benjamin Challen the tax free threshold is $18,200. I earned that as a teenage pizza shop employee 20+ years ago!

    Benjamin Challen Benjamin Challen 1:35 pm 14 May 21

    After other offsets you can yet it closer to 35k

    Apprentice is about $15 an hour.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 1:37 pm 14 May 21

    Benjamin Challen what "other offsets"? Do you mean tax deductions that come from spending money on tooling, etc.? How much do you think they spend??!!

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 1:39 pm 14 May 21

    Benjamin Challen and $15 an hour for 50 hour weeks (I am yet to meet an apprentice who does not work overtime) is $36,000.

    Benjamin Challen Benjamin Challen 1:41 pm 14 May 21

    no worries.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 1:43 pm 14 May 21

    Benjamin Challen oh. and the $15 an hour? That is PLUS allowances, first year only, etc (unless you're underpaying your apprentices...)

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 12:05 am 15 May 21

    Jo Hannwow Jo, so you are a subject matter expert in employing tradie apprentices? You have been an employer have you? Plus an accountant knowing what expenses tradies & apprentices can claim back on their tax returns? Did you just google the latest ATO tax free threshold for 2021 to find the figure of $18,200?

    This post initially questioned whether youth (16/17 yrs) are actually mature enough to vote - not about taxes (or lack of) ...but you wanted to challenge that if you pay any 'perceived' tax (which these youth, whether apprentices or still school kids) which I can almost certainly guarantee will NOT pay tax.

    If you learn how tax returns are calculated you will realise that most of these low wages will come under the tax free threshold and any tax they paid upfront will refunded when they submit their tax return – thus, no tax has been paid.

    Benjamin Challen

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 12:31 am 15 May 21

    Jo Hann see my recent post to reply to your "if you pay tax, you should have an option to vote for the government that spends it" - sure - but, these 16/17 year old will not earn enough to actually pay taxes -they will have their taxes refunded as their earnings will be under the tax free threshold.

    As to your comment "it would be ridiculous to charge a 16 year old as an adult, as their frontal lobe (which controls impulses) is not fully formed." - I totally agree

    ....So how can this SAME person be fully qualified to vote in how our country should be ruled?

    "That does not mean that they're not just as qualified to vote as you are, though"

    Seriously? Do you not see the contradiction/irony in your post?

    Why would I want this this youth to be be able to cast a vote who in your words "their frontal lobe (which controls impulses) is not fully formed." ?

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 9:03 am 15 May 21

    Nada Krstin there are 16 and 17 year olds who earn over $18k. The potential to pay tax is all that should be required, though, as there is no income test for other voter eligibility.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 9:05 am 15 May 21

    Nada Krstin and, addressing your query as to whether they're qualified, there's no cognitive test either. We do not deem an elderly person with dementia incapable of voting. We do not have an IQ test. The 16 and 17 year olds who choose to vote are eminently more qualified than a great deal of the population.

Selene Sharp Selene Sharp 10:25 pm 11 May 21

I’m more concerned about whether it benefits society rather than just me

Henry Kivimaki Henry Kivimaki 7:54 pm 11 May 21

No way !! Age should be raised to 25.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 10:46 am 12 May 21

    Henry Kivimaki as long as you don't have to pay tax until then.

David Brown David Brown 6:51 pm 11 May 21

I think the suffrage age should be raised to 21.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:46 pm 11 May 21

An even lower voting age? – maybe, in return for a poll tax – we already have far too many people voting for nice ideas that someone else will pay for.

The “stake in the future” (especially re the environment) argument which the Greens run in favour of a lower voting age might be a bit easier to swallow if, for instance, the Greens were campaigning at least as strongly for policies which made people walk the talk – e.g. eliminating all student parking at ACT colleges.

Millie Clark Millie Clark 5:55 pm 11 May 21

I think we should include younger people in voting and include politics in school.

Most people seem to be politically illiterate. When you don’t understand how the government works and what they are there for, or know how to interpret policies and laws you end up with people who don’t know how to vote within their best interests.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:35 pm 11 May 21

“……..please confirm how this school brainwashing is happening…….”

I know a few school teachers in the ACT. Without exception they all vote Labor/Green and they are always banging on about how climate change is going to kill us all etc.

    Maya123 Maya123 11:47 am 12 May 21

    More realistic of them to accept that climate change is happening and not ignore the research of those working in the field and studying what is happening, than to live in the la-la land of a denier who ignores the research. This will be young people’s future, and the school is an education institution that teaches more than reading, writing and maths. Climate change should be part of science lessons. Maybe one day it will also be part of history lessons.

    jwinston jwinston 1:28 pm 12 May 21

    Maya Maya Maya. There is no such thing as man made climate change. Our climate is based on the sun and it’s solar cycles. It has been happening for millennia and will continue well after you and I are long gone.

    Maya123 Maya123 3:01 pm 12 May 21

    So you work in this area of research and know more than those who are studding it?

    Science is evolving as more is learnt. When many of us went to school this had not been as studied as it is today. Knowledge does not stay static. I mean, once people were taught the world was flat. As that was taught once, should we then, based on comments here, continue to accept the earth is flat. Our knowledge evolves, and increases. Though unfortunately some have difficulty keeping up. New knowledge and research that challenges and updates, is scary for some. Better to ignore and deny then.

    jwinston jwinston 6:53 pm 12 May 21

    True, science is evolving Maya. In saying that there is still no scientific proof of MAN MADE climate change.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:46 pm 12 May 21

    Climate change was happening when this old denier went to school – we studied it as a natural thing. In fact, it has been happening forever, the same as it is today.

    Unfortunately an industry of misinformation has evolved and certain people have vested interests to keep the scare campaign going.

    JS9 JS9 4:17 pm 12 May 21

    The same types of vested interests CR that masquerade on here on other matters? Like those trying to pretend what ultimately is technological change and finding a better way (evolution of how we produce electricity) is somehow ‘evil’ because it doesn’t fit with ‘back in my day’ yarns about horses and carts…. you can’t have both ways.

    But as always, anecdotal evidence is all that you ever choose to deal in.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:26 pm 12 May 21

    I don’t think technological change has anything to do with climate change JS9 in the same way horses and carts don’t but maybe credulous people do think that way.

    In the past 70 years I haven’t observed anything that indicates the climate is changing other that naturally. In what way is that anecdotal?

Mark Newman Mark Newman 5:15 pm 11 May 21

I think voting should be proportionate to the amount of tax you contribute.

    Millie Clark Millie Clark 5:57 pm 11 May 21

    Mark Newman what about people with chronic illness and disability? These people often rely on government support through no fault of their own.

    Should people that NEED help not have a say? If they don’t have that opportunity there’s every chance that their needs will not be met. Voting is partially an opportunity for the population to give feedback to the government.

    Mark Newman Mark Newman 8:19 pm 11 May 21

    Millie Clark the whole conversation is completely theoretical, just opening a discussion around compulsory voting in Australia. In reality an uneducated vote is worth the same as an intentional vote.......... can you see how this affects democracy?

    Mark Newman Mark Newman 8:21 pm 11 May 21

    I think the more invested you are in something naturally the more interested you become. In politics I don’t think everyone shares the same level of interest or investment and it is time for a fairer system. Making voting mandatory causes a large amount of uneducated/dummy votes which influences political agendas and outcomes.

    Millie Clark Millie Clark 9:33 pm 11 May 21

    Mark Newman so from what you’re saying it sounds like you would prefer Australia not to be a democracy? Because allowing only people of a certain status a vote is not democracy. Also, non mandatory voting gives power to those who have a vested interest. So ultimately every election would become biased towards those who have higher financial capital.

    Also kids get taught all kinds of things they aren’t interested in and are useless to them later in life. It makes sense to also teach them life skills that they may not like but will use in their life.

    I feel like this is a better solution to useless votes than stopping mandatory voting. People can always make a ineligible vote if they really don’t want a say anyway. Ultimately Australia will be more equal if everyone has an equal vote.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:06 pm 11 May 21

    Mark Newman thanks Mark, great feedback about compulsory voting & uneducated votes...I must say I have been a bit of a muppet with politics most of my life, but now am becoming more aware (& educated) to realise the effects of uneducated votes and the effect of compulsory voting has on democracy in Oz, which DOES ultimately influence political agendas & which maybe most voters did not really intend...but that ends up being the end result

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:20 pm 11 May 21

    Mark Newman or what about voting to be optional? How would that affect our democracy?

    Not being sarcastic, just don't politics enough.

    Surely better having those casting their votes that want to, than compulsory voting eventuating in donkey votes or anyhoo votes just so they don't cop a fine?

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:01 pm 12 May 21

    Mark Newman And without compulsory voting Trump came to power in the USA. Thank goodness we have compulsory voting, as that reduces the power of interest groups. Without compulsory voting, special interest groups can round up people likely to vote how they want, bus them to polling booths and sway the vote in their favour. Also, thank goodness we have proportional voting, as that stops vote splitting. It makes our system more democratic and better represents the local population than the US system does.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:06 pm 12 May 21

    Mark Newman, wrote, "I think voting should be proportionate to the amount of tax you contribute."

    This varied, but before Federation it might only be land owners who could vote; not that distant to your suggestion. As long as they were male of course (and I imagine white). Wouldn't want women voting. It seems you want us to go back to the 1800s.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 7:10 pm 12 May 21

    Nada Krstin You just have to look at the election of Trump and the interest groups that helped put him in power to see how bad non compulsory voting is. Please don't wish that on Australia.

    Nada Krstin Nada Krstin 10:51 pm 12 May 21

    Julie Macklin copy that, all taken onboard - welcome all feedback - only way I will learn :)

Linda Stapleton Linda Stapleton 5:02 pm 11 May 21

Voting age is 18... end of

Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 4:56 pm 11 May 21

Muppets. Get on with role of governing instead of deflecting their incompetence

Jane Smee Jane Smee 4:17 pm 11 May 21

Errrrr, that would be a NO from me.

Robert Honeybone Snr Robert Honeybone Snr 3:34 pm 11 May 21


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